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Book Review – Letterbox by Cameron Trost

Letterbox by Cameron Trost is a recent horror title from Naked Snake Press and the first work I’ve read by this author. This slim novel intrigues, beguiles and ultimately, in the opinion of this reviewer, doesn’t quite live up to its early promise. Despite this, Trost’s first novel is well worth reading. You can check out this and other works by Trost on his blog.

Letterbox begins strongly with a prologue detailing the unhappy childhood of an unnamed boy who has to deal with his mother’s abusive partner, among other things. Ostracized from other children his age, the boy mutilates ants in a toy castle and dreams of doing similar things to his mother’s oppressor. It seems certain that the boy will grow up to be a psychopath of some kind. I enjoyed this section immensely, which cleverly foregrounded the action of the bulk of the novel.

The main part of the novel is set in the rural English village of Mirebury, a sleepy backwater where everyone knows each other and their business. For the most part, we follow the life of Ian Carew, a young schoolteacher who has lived in Mirebury for six years, which isn’t very long by local standards. There is a lot of switching between viewpoint characters in Letterbox, however, and even though Ian is probably the most important character, the whole of the story isn’t about him.

Life in Mirebury goes on much as it always has until elderly Mrs Hopkins makes a discovery in her letterbox that both horrifies her and sets in motion a chain of events that turns the town on its head. I won’t reveal the gruesome item found in Mrs Hopkins’ letterbox, but suffice to say that it is a body part of a deceased loved one. Things go from bad to worse thereafter, as Mirebury is plagued by a mysterious outsider they come to refer to as the Postman. No one knows whether the Postman is in fact a local, and as such the town’s inhabitants begin to fear and mistrust one another. Although it is never stated directly, it is clear that this Postman is the young boy from the novel’s prologue years later, although his exact identity remains a mystery throughout the book.

Letterbox is a fairly short novel and it makes for an easy read, but I felt that the narrative began to lose some of its momentum in the second half. Trost shows the residents increasingly turning on one another, and a couple even end up as murderers in their own right. There’s the inevitable showdown between the Postman and the schoolteacher, Ian, but we never discover the Postman’s true identity. I couldn’t help but feel a little dissatisfied by this. Still, Letterbox is an impressive debut from Cameron Trost, and one that promises better things to come.

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